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Dr Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old is Your Brain?

Look, Ma, I always told you playing games wasn’t a waste of time. This one is actually good for me.

You see, I’m playing this new Nintendo DS game, Brain Training, and it’s actually reversing the effects of age, diet, booze, poor sleep patterns and general laziness on my tired old noggin. That nice Dr. Kawashima tells me so, and he should know, being one of Japan’s top experts on brain analysis and imaging, and the author of a range of best-selling brain training books. The good Doctor has established ways of testing the current state of my brain, and exercises to put it back in working order. And because it’s a game, it doesn’t feel like any work at all.

Ingenuously, Brain Training treats your DS like an interactive, electronic book; you tilt your DS on the side, use the left page to read questions, comments and analysis, and the right to write in answers using the touchscreen as a basic text recognition system. It feels so natural that you wonder why nobody thought of this before.

Now you can just try out some of the exercises, just for fun, but don’t be timid, don’t you want to know how dull and muddled your poor brain has become? Start a daily training regime and your first task is to find your brain age, which may be anywhere between the ideal 20 and a not so ideal 80. The game features a range of simple tests that use either text or voice recognition. You may be asked to say the colour of a word onscreen, making sure to say red when the word is coloured red, rather than being ‘red’ if you get my drift. You might also be asked to count all the moving black numbers, the rotating yellow numbers or some other seemingly easy but actually mildly confusing task. At the end of three of these, the game hits you with your current brain age.

Hang tough – it’s likely to be bad news. I blame the effects of an eight-week old daughter on my sleep, but I only managed a pitiful eighty on my first effort, meaning my mind was only fit to be pensioned off or put to sleep. The trick to getting that brain age down is to come back every day for a training session. A session takes the form of one or more exercises, which might be simple timed arithmetic challenges, reading aloud, or memorising then selecting numbers in a group from the lowest to the highest. Complete one exercise per day and you can stamp the date on the calendar and go away feeling good about yourself. Complete three or more, and you get a larger stamp.

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